I Can’t Sleep
I Can’t Sleep
In a neighbourhood of Paris where a series of murders have taken place, aspiring Lithuanian actress Daïga strives to achieve her dream. Meanwhile, immigrant musician Théo struggles to raise his son with the intention of returning to his native Martinique. Théo’s brother, Camille, is a gay performer who makes ends meet by dancing at a cabaret. I Can’t Sleep is a period piece set in the 1980s when real-life serial killer Thierry Paulin, who—together with his lover—murdered more than twenty elderly women in Paris’s 18th arrondissement. The murders, however, are not the film’s central focus. Without seeking to explain the motives behind such crimes, I Can’t Sleep addresses a complex entanglement of displacement, estrangement, and race with an intimate portrayal of marginalised people. I Can’t Sleep is regarded as part of Denis’ trilogy on colonialism, along with Chocolat (1988) and No Fear No Die (1990).
About the Director
Claire Denis (b. 1946, France) began her career working on set in Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie (1974). Her years working alongside Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch were crucial to her growth as a filmmaker before she directed her debut Chocolat (1988). Her next films I Can’t Sleep (1994) and Nénette et Boni (1996) interweave narratives inspired by the urban culture of Paris. Denis’s elliptical narrative and visual style received widespread acclaim with Beau Travail (1999) while Trouble Every Day (2001) made a shocking presentation in which Denis, regarded as an arthouse director, turned to the horror genre. The 2000s were significant for her career, which saw the release of Friday Night (2002), 35 Shots of Rum (2008), and White Material (2009). In 2022, Both Sides of the Blade and Stars at Noon won prizes at the Berlinale and Cannes respectively. Working closely with her long-time collaborators, such as cinematographer Agnès Godard and the rock band Tindersticks, Denis has contributed a diverse body of work to contemporary cinema.
Image at top: Claire Denis. I Can’t Sleep, 1994. Photo: Courtesy of Arena Films